Why is coffee bad for you? Or too important to live without?

Well I thought the debate on coconut oil was bad but coffee moves into a serious love hate discussions. After my last post on my coffee ritual ‘The daily cup of mindfulness‘, I’ve had some coffee haters come out of the wood works telling me about the dark side of coffee. But why is coffee bad for you?

My life with coffee

Since an early age, coffee has been a part of life. My grandparents used to let taste their morning brew and regularly make me ‘Late Café’ (Italian for milk and coffee) since I can remember.

I’ve worked as a Barista in my teens, always enjoyed making a special home brew and caught up with friends over cuppa at many coffee shops.

Throughout my own health journey, I also gave up coffee for about 2 years. This was proof that I didn’t have to live with coffee if I didn’t want to. It was decided after those 2 years that coffee is part of me, my family history and our human culture.

I don’t make coffee to wake up. I wake up to make coffee.

The brief history of coffee

There are many versions of the history and the discovery off the sacred beans, but most go all the way back to the 5th or 6th century. The legend of Kaldi the Ethiopian Goat herder noticed his goats would be restless when they ate the leave and berries of an unknown plant.

Monks from a nearby monastery heard about this phenomenon and started to experiment with plant. They tried different techniques of ingesting the plant so they could stay awake longer to pray.

After many trials and errors, they realised when they roasted, grinded and infused water with the seed of the plant, they would create this unique drink.

In the centuries to come, many would hide the existence of this sacred plant and it would have to be smuggled out of Arabia to be grown all over the world. Once exposed to world, the trade of this gift from nature grew like wild fire and became one of the most traded plants around the globe.

Today, coffee is readily available to just about anyone and is a $20 Billion industry! The top three producers of coffee are Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia. Worldwide, we drink over 500 billion cups of coffee every year. Not bad for a plant once eaten by a goat.

Different types of Coffee

There are over 100 species of the Coffea plant but when it comes to beans that we roast and drink there are really only 2 types, Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica is the more flavoursome and sweeter tasting of the two and by far the most popular. Robusta is a firmer and earthier taste. Due to Robusta being more of a harsher taste, its less adopted and mostly found in instant coffee mixes.

Robusta is more caffeinated than Arabica beans which is likely to give it its bitter taste.  Robusta is also the cheaper when sold as a green bean.

Over the years, cultures have created different ways to percolate the brew and drink it as light brew (long black), tight press (short black espresso), addition of milk (cappuccino, latte, macchiato) and with many more flavours.

So what’s so bad about coffee and what’s so great about coffee.

Here are the arguments with coffee and I hope I can shed some light on the good and the bad for you in an honest way. At the end of the day, you really must make your own mind up and what suits your biology.

 

Coffee is full of Caffeine

Not everyone reacts well with caffeine, it can cause anxiety, restless sleep and jitters. At my peak on an anxiety disorder, I had all these effects from coffee (Check out this article on how  overcame my anxiety disorder).

So, the bad in this is that it can increase stress hormones like cortisol especially if your body is not gauged for coffee drinking.

For some people, they have a tolerance of so many coffees a day before they get these effects. Mine is currently max of 3.

 

Caffeine is drug and is very addictive.

This is true and you will battle the withdrawal affects if you quit coffee from your daily regimen. When I quit coffee many years ago, I had 3 days of headaches and complete loss of concentration.

Like everything, moderation is good thing. You should know your caffeine tolerance and not push past it.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can boost metabolism enhance brain function. As most you may know, I fast at least a couple of times a week, and I use coffee as a bridge to reduce hunger pangs and boost energy on days without food.

Caffeine is one of the world’s favourite way to increase focus and concentration (if you’re looking for alternative ways to improve focus, check out this post).  When you drink it, it blocks a brain hormone called Adenosine. When this is blocked, it boosts other neurotransmitters in the brain to increase norepinephrine and dopamine. This makes us feel alert and focused.

Coffee – A liquid hug for your brain

Why is coffee unhealthy to drink?

Coffee by itself (and pending your biology mix with caffeine), is perfectly healthy to drink. When people add milk, sugar and artificial flavourings, it becomes an unhealthy drink.

For example, coffee is full of anti-oxidants in presence of polyphenols. Once you add milk to your black coffee, the polyphenols no longer act as anti-oxidants and you lose all the health benefits.

Also, a lot of coffee taste bitter or burnt, hence why many people need to add sugar to it. Once you find a great tasting Arabica grind and make it correctly, it’s almost naturally sweet. If you still have a sweet tooth like me, add some stevia or other natural low glycaemic sweetener.

Another argument I was faced with is that coffee will make you dehydrated. I agree with this to a degree, but factors like how hydrated your body is will directly affect this. I drink a glass of water with every coffee I drink and try to drink about 2 litres of water a day. I’ve had no problems with dehydration.

Lastly, always use good quality coffee and try to find brands that don’t have impurities or are processed with chemicals.  Organic certified and fair-trade coffees seem to have a high standard.

 

Coffee Drinks live longer

Some studies have been linked to longevity for coffee drinkers. A study published the New England Journal of Medicine 2012  showed that coffee drinkers lived longer over the 12-year study with 4402, 250 participants.

Not confident on studies and need some more ground-breaking evidence. Life extension organisations have made the connection that the length of Telomeres (the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes) is directly related to aging.  Those with shorter telomeres in blood DNA had poorer survival, attributable in part to a 3 times higher mortality rate from heart disease and an 8 times higher mortality rate from infectious disease.

So, guess what influences long telomere length and protects them from shortening. Magical Coffee! It actually protects you from DNA damage when your telomere don’t lose length.

Another interesting fact is that coffee drinkers appear to have significant reduction in developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Conclusion

If you drink coffee, keep it black and sweeten with only natural low glycaemic sweeteners for maximum health benefits. Any other additives and it just works in the opposite direction.

Like all things, know your coffee limits and drink in moderation. My rule is no coffee after 1pm to get the best sleep. If it doesn’t agree with you, don’t drink it.

 

What’s your opinion on coffee? How to you take it? How many a day do you drink?

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26 Comments on Why is coffee bad for you? Or too important to live without?

  1. This is a very interesting article about hate and love of coffee. I like coffee taste very much and depend on it when I was a student to keep awake for learning. But now I avoid it because many literatures say that coffee is not good for the body. Now I understand that coffee is naturally good but the sugar and other additive make it bad. So my question is what kind of coffee should I drink to get full antioxidants? I hope you give recommendations for the good products to gain the benefits of coffee for health.

    • Thanks for your comment Melani. I haven’t gotten any product recommendations as everyone needs to find their own particular prefered flavour and sometimes local roasters.
      Look for fresh if imported, Arabica for best flavor, brands which are organic if possible and mould tested is preferable. Mould is a hidden danger in coffee. Try to get as fresh as possible.

  2. I guess, Vince, I’m the example not to follow. My Italian origins aw me brought up to be waken up in the morning to the smell of strong espresso- a smell I loved for many years, and which now, however, I cannot stand. I’ll stretch to even worse extremes. Yes, I’ll admit, I do not like coffee, espresso or long. But I adore my daily dose of skinny latte, which I buy in sachets from the supermarket.
    So, really, I’m a combination of all that recommend we don’t do, as I don’t like black coffee and I drink probably the lower quality with plenty of milk.
    I hear you and believe you when you say pure coffee has anti-aging proerties, but I think I’d be better off giving it up altogether 😌

    • There are also other anti-aging properties in many others foods so coffee isn’t the be all and end all.
      Thanks for Sharing Giulia. My wife too loves the sachets of skinny latte.

  3. Oh I Miss My Morning Coffee! I haven’t drank any of it for 3 years now as the doctor advised me to stay off any caffeine due to the anxiety attacks I was having,but I would love to taste it just once again but it’s not worth it.

    • That’s one of the reasons I got off coffee for 2 years as well. I tried decaf but just couldn’t find the taste satisfaction.
      I’m glad I overcame my anxiety and hope you had success with overcoming yours.
      Thanks for sharing Matthew.

  4. Hey Vince, great article! I myself have 2-3 cups of coffee a day, not only does it clear my morning fog but helps me concentrate better on the tasks at hand.

    However, I do not drink coffee past 11 am lol, I have in the past and found that it makes me restless at night and usually takes me until 1 am to get to sleep. So, my 2-3 cups before 11 am, I am easily able to fall asleep by 11 pm.

    My father on the other hand drinks coffee all day long WOW! I still do not know how he does it, but he has been doing it since he was 15 and he is now 67 and is able to fall asleep just about anywhere lol even with a half cup of coffee left in his cup:)

    Anyway, great article about the pro’s and con’s about coffee, and I will have to experiment with the different Arabica beans to find a sweeter coffee, thanks for the tip!

    Regards,

    Matthew

    • My old man too is immune to caffeine. He drinks a short black right before bed!
      It great to know your coffee tolerance, especially when affects sleeping.
      Appreciate your comments Matthew.

  5. I prefer tea as my drink of choice but I do drink coffee purely for caffeine purposes and I’ve noticed that to be able to benefit from the caffeine I have to drink coffee even stronger and now I do double espressos if I have to set off on a long drive.
    I can tell I only drink coffee to stay alert because i would never even look at decaf coffee as there’s no point.

    • Caffeine is a great reason to drink coffee. It is a natural way to focus and get more energy.
      Thanks for your comment Dave.

  6. Great Article! I have to be honest I don’t like black coffee (not even with sugar). I love a cappuccino or a mochaccino. When those are not available I like to drink coffee with milk. I know those are the unhealthy choices. I try to stay away from them most of the time. I do drink tea a lot instead. I live in the Caribbean and the Colombian (South America) coffee is very popular.

    • I was the same Dira. I only use to drink coffee with milk. But once I heard of the health benefits drinking black and found great grade coffee, my taste buds changed.
      I can agree that the Colombians makes some great coffee.

  7. Thank you for the informative article. I used to drink coffee but now I have subsided from it mainly because it gives me anxiety, which in turn doesn’t make me productive at all. It’s like a lose-lose situation. However, I do agree with you that coffee can be extremely healthy before the addition of substances people like. I do know that telomeres is related to aging but had no idea coffee can help prevent the dissociation of our telomeres. Very neat!

  8. I don’t know all the scientific terms for why coffee’s good or bad but I do know that I enjoy drinking it at least once a day.
    I like to make a nice cold brew with freshly ground organic beans, although I do add some sweetener and cream occasionally. Probably not the healthiest approach, but with sparing usage I think it’ll be fine.
    Also, I wonder what the health differences are between cold and hot coffee beverages.. Might be worth looking into.

    • Very interesting Dom. I’ve never thought about the hot and cold difference for health. You’ve given me something to research.

  9. I sometimes suffer from dehydration effects of coffee and I wonder that is it healthy when I do intermittent fasting. Because the absorption of water also changes while I do it. Do you have any suggestions for consuming coffee or should I just stop drinking coffee during the fasting period?

    • I drink more coffee when I fast, but I also drink a lot more water when I fast. My tips are drink a cup of water on waking and drink a cup of water after every coffee.
      All the best

  10. Yup as much as I adore the smell and the taste, coffee is not my friend. I used to have so many digestive issues and I thought that I have lots of food intolerances but it turned out it was coffee being the culprit and messing with my system. Once I quit it, all my food intolerances went away. I stopped taking anti acids several times a week. In fact I used to buy like 2 boxes a month. Even decaf did the same thing. Qutting coffee and caffeine really changed my health for the better.

    • Thanks for your feedback Vanessa. Coffee isn’t for everyone and I recall my sister having a similar problem with coffee.
      Glad your health journey has improved.

  11. Very well written post- and I totally LOLed- like I actually laughed out loud at the quote “I don’t make coffee to wake up. I wake up to make coffee.” hahahah!! I am just sitting here with a coffee right now- really liked reading about the history of coffee and the two different types. I am enjoying an Arabica coffee with almond milk, no additional sugar or anything… also I try to keep my intake to 1 large or 2 per day otherwise I will switch over to decaf.

  12. I love the smell of coffee but unfortunately, my body does not tolerate it well. Years ago, I had a coffee drink from Starbucks and not long after, I felt like vomiting. That was not a good experience so from then on, I stopped drinking coffee.

  13. As a coffee lover from way back, I would find it hard to give my coffee up. I have started using a touch of honey instead of sugar, and am learning to appreciate no milk either.
    I drink coffee for the taste, and have tasted many varieties from around the world. It’s always an activity I like to seek out when travelling. One of my vices for sure.

    • I must try honey in the coffee. sound delish. It took a while for be to appreciate a good coffee taste without milk but i realized that i was just drinking crap coffee. A good roast for me with a touch of stevia is perfect.
      Appreciate your comment Brad.

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